After losing two of its last three games, No. 6 Tennessee will try to reestablish its offensive efficiency when it hosts Missouri in Southeastern Conference action Saturday in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Volunteers (19-5, 8-3 SEC) have lost at Florida 67-54, edged Auburn 46-43 at home and lost at Vanderbilt 66-65 in their last three games.
Tennessee had a chance to pull away from the Commodores on Wednesday, but the Volunteers went 4:27 without scoring a basket. They lost when Tyrin Lawrence knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Vanderbilt.
“We had some unforced, I think, silly turnovers that we can’t have with guys that have played a lot of minutes for us,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That, when we get a chance to get some separation, we just can’t have some of the turnovers that we had. Again, this time of year, you expect to be in possession games like this.”
Tyreke Key was the offensive bright spot for Tennessee in that game. He scored 14 points off the bench in his best performance in SEC play.
Key made 6 of 12 shots from the field and 2 of 4 from 3-point range while making just one turnover. He got extra playing time when guard Zakai Zeigler got in early foul trouble.
“I thought he got aggressive and started doing some of the things that you guys know we need him to do,” Barnes said. “He did it. We need that from him.”
Santiago Vescovi leads Tennessee in scoring (12.0) and Josiah Jordan-James leads the team in rebounding (5.3). Jordan-James missed time in the Vanderbilt game with a sprained ankle.
The Volunteers are 11-1 at home in Thompson-Boling Arena this season. Missouri (18-6, 6-5) is 2-4 in true road games.
The Tigers are coming off am 83-74 victory over South Carolina at home Tuesday. Kobe Brown led the way with 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals.
Missouri coach Dennis Gates urged Brown, the Tigers’ leading scorer (16.3) and rebounder (6.1), to take charge of the game during the second half.
“I was not pleased with Kobe’s start,” Gates said. “And I challenged him, looked him in the eye several times and challenged him because I thought he was passing the ball too much and passed up on some open shots that he had normally taken, even in the last five, six games. At that point I saw him click back and accept that challenge in the right way. Didn’t pout about it, didn’t pout after his head coach got after him. He was able to focus on my words and deliver what I asked him to deliver.”
With guard Tre Gomillion (groin) and forward Ronnie DeGray III (knee) injured and guard Isiaih Mosley sitting out for undisclosed reasons, Gates reduced his playing rotation to eight players against South Carolina. The rotation could expand at Tennessee.
“Tre Gomillion wants to play,” Gates said. “I’m making the decision. Ronnie DeGray … these guys want to be out there, so I have to make the decision. Isiaih wants to be out there, but I have to make the decision as the head coach.”
–Field Level Media